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The art of placemaking

Sheikha Fatima Bint Mubarak Park Abu Dhabi.png
IMKAN’s CEO Walid El-Hindi speaks to Cityscape about the importance of design and how the focus has shifted towards providing livable spaces with vibrant neighbourhoods and interactive public spaces.

What are your thoughts on how the architecture and design industry has evolved in the UAE capital over the last decade?

The architecture and design industry in Abu Dhabi, although relatively young has grown and continues to do so at an unprecedented rate. 
The city has raised the bar and established its place on the architectural map with structures like the Louvre Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Zayed Mosque, The Founder’s Memorial and the breathtaking restoration of Qasr al Hosn. Planned structures like the Sheikh Zayed Museum and the Guggenheim will further cement the capital’s place on the world’s cultural and architectural maps. 
Looking back, we can see this has been a successful decade of massive development and transformation for the emirate. The introduction of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, and with it the architectural feat of the Yas Marina Circuit in November 2009; the development of Yas Island, with its theme parks, hotel complexes and the emirate’s biggest mall, have helped put Abu Dhabi on the global tourism map. Not only has the architectural landscape changed, but active investments and developments to increase the emirate’s capital in culture have resulted in the birth of structures of worldwide importance. 
We’ve seen historically, that cities with beautiful and distinctive architecture across the world attract value. This is also the case with cities that rejuvenate the design and architecture in inspiring neighbourhoods, for instance in London’s Shoreditch and Brooklyn’s Williamsburg. These neighbourhoods, have now become famous centres of creativity and culture. 

How are developers and architects changing their approach when it comes to design in Abu Dhabi? Can you provide an example of how IMKAN is doing this?

The emphasis on design is becoming more apparent - buildings are no longer following the typical model of a tower on a podium. Instead, each structure is being designed in relation to its program and lifespan. The focus has shifted towards providing livable spaces for people to reside where they can interact with their communities. In fact, our research has shown that spaces between buildings are playing a larger role in the overall design and heavily benefitting community interactions. As place-makers, this is at the heart of every project that we are involved in. Placemaking means constructing vibrant neighbourhoods and interactive public spaces that bring in value over time; both economically and with concern to people's wellbeing

Our Sheikha Fatima Park project is a perfect reflection of this. In partnership with Abu Dhabi Municipality, we are transforming the former Khalidiya Ladies park into an open-air, accessible, multi-dimensional green space. To redesign the park, like all IMKAN projects, we focused on creating the negative spaces before the positive. This has allowed us to offer areas for chance interactions, engagement and discovery throughout the urban park. 

What are the top architecture trends that will emerge in 2019 and how will it influence the industry in Abu Dhabi? 

In this part of the world we are fortunate enough to have accelerated into becoming a place that quickly takes on emerging trends. For 2019, we foresee the further expansion of two main trends: co-living and flexible spaces. 

Co-living Spaces
Co-living spaces enable people to enjoy the privacy of their own living quarters, while still allowing them to be part of a community. It means that people are able to afford to live in more desirable neighbourhoods in nicer surrounds.  As little as a decade ago the "sharing economy" didn't even have a name. Right now, it’s worth is forecast to grow from AED 51.4 billion in 2014 to AED 1,230 in billion in 2025. Millennials and boomers are the two different generations changing the status quo by wanting spaces that are much more in tune with their way of life and way of thinking. 

Flexible Spaces
Wework, the office space technicians, are pioneers in the concept of flexible working spaces. Their spaces cater for every need, from individuals such as freelancers and remote workers all the way up to whole office complexes for teams of upwards of 250 people. 
Companies like Breather, X Social Communities, industrious, campspace and podshare have taken the concept of flexible work spaces further and added their own unique selling points to them. Breather, the leading app of its kind, lets users book stylish workspaces on demand according to their location.   

IMKAN’s tagline is ‘to create soulful places’ – how are you doing this – given one of Abu Dhabi’s goals is to create a cultural heart for creativity to thrive?

IMKAN’s proposition is built around a unique research platform that uncovers the distinct social behaviours and habits of specific market segments, from millennials to discerning high net-worth individuals to formulate tailored user profiles. This research-led approach enables us to shape communities that are in tune with the mind-set of each profile. To do this, we focus on many verticals that support the structures of modern communities; such as, Food, Fashion, Psychology and Health. In terms of health, not only does our research allow us to focus on the physical fitness of our residents and visitors, we also place a particular focus on making sure the materials we use are the best possible fit to ensure the healthiness of inhabitants. In conclusion, it is because of our extensive research that we are able to develop communities with a people-first mindset. 

Can you provide an update on your current projects.

We’ve just had the exciting sales launch of our development on the Sahel Al Emarat coastline. It is set to change the concept of owning a second home in the UAE. The project, AlJurf, will be the centre of our Cityscape presentation - a new coastal community, located between Abu Dhabi and Dubai, equipped with a world-renowned wellness clinic and retreat, unique residential communities and serviced residences.
Following the launch of AlJurf, we welcomed the month of March with the launch of a new tower at Pixel, the first mixed use development at Makers District. This year, we will also showcase our Reem Island development at Cityscape Abu Dhabi.
Our Nudra project is a luxury development of 37 villas on Saadiyat Island in Abu Dhabi and is due for completion in summer of 2019. The Nudra community is setting new benchmarks for community-living with its ability to offer bespoke properties.
Starting mid-February, we have also begun welcoming proposals for multiple premium tenants in the new dynamic leisure space Sheikha Fatima Park. In partnership with Abu Dhabi Municipality, we are transforming the former Khalidiya Ladies park into an open-air, accessible, multi-dimensional green space revamping what was once a walled and almost secret park in Khalidiya, one of Abu Dhabi’s busiest districts. The completed Sheikha Fatima Park will be a revitalized, multi-use space and a hive of community-led activities.
Alburouj, in Cairo, will be a ready-made 500-hectare suburb with start of delivery to commence in July 2019 with 254 units. Located on Ismailia Road, just 20 minutes away from Cairo Airport, the development is made up of villas, twin-houses, town houses, duplexes and apartments. 
In Morocco, our current developments consist of Le Marais, a high-end residential complex set in a natural environment on the outskirts of Rabat expected to be launched in 2020; Villa Diyafa, a luxurious boutique hotel located in Rabat’s embassy district and Carmine, a Health & Wellness hospitality project located in Palmeraie, Marrakech which is expected to be launched during 2020.


 

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